What is the purpose of Software?

My friend Grant Rule posted an interesting question on LinkedIn. He asked, “What is the purpose of software?” To me the answer is obvious and the purpose of software is to solve problems. Too many software applications are being built without a clear problem to solve. Too many in the field of software development focus on what the technology can do.

Let me make an analogy for you. I travel a lot internationally and I went to my bank (Bank of America) and asked for a line of credit. The banker said,” of course we can give you a line of credit” and then she asked, “what problem you are trying to solve?” I explained that I travel a lot international and run up large expenses. The problem, in my mind, was the time between when I was paid by a client and I had to pay my credit card bills. The solution, in my mind, was a line of credit. Notice I had the problem and solution well in my mind. Then said asked me if she could offer a potential solution. She suggested, “Why don’t you ask your clients for a percentage upfront to cover your expenses?” It turns out I did not need a line of credit at all. I have taken her advice and it has worked well.

To many “customers” of software applications do not know what problem they are trying to solve and therefore cannot offer a solution. Tom Kelly (The Art of Innovation) points out too customers do not have the ability to articulate what is wrong and especially what is missing. So if the purpose of software is to solve customer problems, and customers cannot articulate what is wrong and what is missing, then exactly who is suppose to articulate the problem and potential solution?

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello David,

    I googled “what is the purpose of software,” your blog came up, and I found it interesting. Anyway, have you since found an answer?

    I am currently developing on ios with the goal of solving disputes between trade unions concerning new materials and who should have jurisdiction.



    • Tom,

      Well that is interesting that you google what is the purpose of software and I come up. Honestly, I am still searching for a clear answer, but over the years the I have determined the purpose of software is to solve some sort of problem. This is why when I work with clients I often ask, “What problem are you trying to solve?” To often the solution they have come up is the solution to another problem.

      Thanks for the email.


  2. How true!

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